EVANSVILLE, Ind. - For the second straight day, the Eastern Illinois men’s basketball team will look to pick up its first win over the season against an opponent that beat the Panthers twice this season.
On Wednesday, the Panthers, the No. 7 seed, led for all of about 1:47 against sixth-seeded Tennessee State and held on for a 73-71 win on the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. Tonight (Thursday) at 8:30 p.m., EIU faces Austin Peay in the tournament quarterfinals at the Ford Center.
Updates on the game can be found on Twitter as JG-TC reporter Justin Rust will be live tweeting the game at https://twitter.com/JustinRust.
Austin Peay, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, won both matchups this season against the Panthers. The first matchup was on Dec. 30, 2017, as the Governors won 70-54. EIU was only down by three points going into halftime, but the Governors went on big run in the second half to pull away.
EIU was playing without guard D’Angelo Jackson, who suffered an ankle injury within the first two minutes and missed the next few weeks. Jackson re-aggravated the injury against Murray State last Thursday and missed the SIU Edwardsville game on Saturday. Jackson was questionable coming into the game against TSU, but did enter the game and played about a minute.
Jackson’s status is questionable for Thursday’s game against Austin Peay.
The Governors got out to a nine first-half lead against EIU in the second meeting on Feb. 10. Austin Peay went into halftime with a 41-30 lead. The Panthers cut into the lead in the second half and made it a one possession game, but the Governors held on for the 76-69 win.
Freshman Terry Taylor had a good game in both matchups for the Governors. He had 12 points and 11 rebounds in the first game and 14 points and eight rebounds in the second game. Terry is averaging 15.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Averyl Ugba had a double-double in the first game with 17 points and 11 rebounds and had 13 points in the second game, but he was held to four rebounds. Ugba is averaging 15.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this season.
Dayton Gumm had a quiet first game against EIU with 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting, but did have seven rebounds. In the second game, he finished with 15 points and hit four three-pointers. He is averaging 10.7 points per game.
EIU’s defense was the key in the game against TSU on Wednesday. Ray Crossland held Delano Spencer in check for much of the game. Nine of Spencer’s 17 points came in the final minute. Christian Mekowulu, who caused EIU problems in the first two games, was held to two points in the second half and didn’t make a trip to the free throw line.
Expect Crossland to get a heavy dose of the defensive minutes on Taylor. Crossland has also been key offensively in the last four games. In Wednesday’s win, he had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Muusa Dama and Aboubacar Diallo drew the defensive assignment on Mekowulu and both should guard Ugba. Dama fouled out of Wednesday’s game, but did a solid job in the first half against Mekowulu. EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said in the postgame press conference that both players defended Mekowulu well.
Montell Goodwin led EIU with 20 points against TSU and the senior guard has scored 38 points against Austin Peay this season. He is averaging 15.0 points per game.
Freshman Mack Smith scored only six points on 2-of-9 shooting against Austin Peay in the first game as he was working his way back from a shoulder injury. In the second game, Smith finished with 28 points and his six three-pointers. Smith was held without a three-pointer in the first half against TSU on Wednesday, but hit three in the second half, including one at the 1:04 mark to give EIU a six-point lead. He finished with 15 points and is averaging 12.1 points per game this season.
Austin Peay and EIU have met three times in the OVC Tournament in the past with EIU holding a 2-1 record against the Governors. The Panthers won the 2001 OVC Tournament title against the Governors back in 2001.
Wednesday’s win over TSU was the first OVC Tournament win for the Panthers since 2015 when they beat SIU Edwardsville. EIU is 7-13 all-time at the OVC Tournament and the win over the Tigers was the first for the Panthers as the No. 7 seed.